The Hospitaller Fortress, or Knights’ Halls, was the Knights Hospitaller Compound and the fortified headquarters for the Crusaders in Akko located in Old Acre.
The Hospitallers, also known as the Order of the Knights of Saint John, were a military order of warrior monks created in the time of the Crusades.
It originally consisted of two to three floors around a central court and an underground sections which contained water reservoirs and a sewage system.
Most of what remains is the first floor since the upper floors were destroyed by the Muslim conqueror and the ravages of time. What remains is 800 years old.
The Citadel of Acre was built above it by the Ottomans, which the British turned into a prison, and is now the Underground Prisoners Museum.
The halls that remain of the Hospitaller Fortress extend over approximately 8,300 square meters – though so far only about 5,000 of them have been excavated so far.
This area includes the central court and the northern, eastern and southern wings while the western wing and the hospital have yet to be excavated.
The most impressive sections is the Column Hall, which is believed to have been the dining room, and features both Romanesque and the Gothic architectural elements.
Underneath it is a rainwater collection system designed to supply diners with drinking water, and near by is a hall believed to have been the kitchen – which as yet to be excavated.
Rainwater was drained from the roofs of the Fortress into the reservoir by means of drainpipes built into the walls.
In the large storage rooms in the fortress the Crusaders stored two things that they discovered in the Middle East – bananas and sugar.
The production of sugar from sugar cane was one of Crusaders’ main sources of revenue and one of the key industries during the Crusader Period in Israel.
The Sugar Bowl Hall is a three-story building where hundreds of earthenware pottery pieces arranged in rows were discovered.
These pottery pieces are “sugar utensils” which are cone-shaped with a drainage hole on the bottom used in the production of sugar.
Dozens of small jars called “Mulsa jars” were found on the floor in another section of the hall. These were used at the end of the sugar making process.
These large storage room with many sugar production utensils, show that the Hospitallers were among the leaders in the sugar industry in the area.
Another fascinating section is the Prisoners Hall, where prisoners were once kept and now displays archeological discoveries.
There is also an artists market in the Pillars Hall featuring artisans typical of the Crusades era selling their products.
This includes blacksmiths, glass blowers, potters, weavers, embroiderers, leather craftsmen, basket weavers, perfume and oil craftsmen, etc.
Every year the Hospitaller Fortress also hosts the “Festival of Alternative Theater” which serve both as a hostel and backdrop for the festival’s plays.
The festival is Israel’s biggest theater festival and provides a forum for non-conventional theatre hosting theater companies from all over the world.
In addition to the plays, there are street performances, bazaars and all sorts of fire, color, and pantomime-related activities.
It also hosts the Opera Festival every year for three consecutive days beginning with a Cocktail Reception.
Before you visit, see the website for visiting hours and ticket prices – including combination ticket with other sites.